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Power Consumption, Temperature, Noise

In our previous review of the Radeon HD 5670 we already tried to find out how energy-efficient RV830 “Redwood” was. However, we did talk about the power consumption of a complete system rather than the electrical characteristics of an individual card. Besides, we have only tested one RV830 model, while RV810 “Cedar” wasn’t included. We are going to give you this information now by testing our graphics cards on a testbed configured as follows:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU (3GHz, 1333 MHz FSB x 9, LGA775)
  • DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset)
  • PC2-1066 SDRAM (2x2 GB, 1066MHz)
  • Enermax Liberty ELT620AWT PSU (620W)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 7 64-bit
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 9 Ultra/"Serenity" BD (1080p VC-1, 20 Mbit)
  • Crysis Warhead
  • OCCT Perestroika 3.1.0

The new testbed for measuring electric characteristics of graphics cards uses a card designed by one of our engineer and described in his article PC Power Consumption: How Many Watts Do We Need?. This device provides the most  extensive information about the electrical characteristics of the graphics cards in various test modes. As usual, to create appropriate workload on the graphics accelerators in different modes we used the following benchmarks:

  • CyberLink PowerDVD 9: FullScreen, hardware acceleration enabled
  • Crysis Warhead: 1600x1200, FSAA 4x, DirectX 10/Enthusiast, "frost" map
  • OCCT Perestroika GPU: 1600x1200, FullScreen, Shader Complexity 8

Except for the maximum load simulation with OCCT, we measured power consumption in each mode for 60 seconds. We limit the run time of OCCT: GPU to 10 seconds to avoid overloading the graphics card's power circuitry.

Here are the obtained results:

Beyond a doubt, the Radeon HD 5670 is highly economical and superior to the GeForce GT 240 in this respect, especially when playing high-definition video. Its peak power draw in the video playback mode is no higher than 16 watts whereas Nvidia’s solution needs about 25 watts. There is nothing interesting about the distribution of load among the different power lines: the +3.3V line always has the same load, its current varying within 0.6 to 0.7 amperes. The current on the +12V line grows up under higher loads, reaching a peak value of 2.6 amperes in the OCCT:GPU test. Gigabyte’s Radeon HD 5670 behaves the same, which is no wonder as the GPU frequencies differ by a mere 10 MHz.

The Radeon HD 5570 has a considerably lower GPU frequency and is equipped with slower DDR3 memory. As a result, its peak power draw is below 20 watts even in games and below 25 watts in the OCCT: GPU test. The card needs about 13 watts when playing HD video, just like the GeForce GT 220. The latter is somewhat more economical in idle mode.

The junior model of the Radeon HD 5000 series is very economical, too, but hardly differs from the GeForce 210 in this respect. Both cards have low power requirements in every mode, the difference between them being negligible. We shouldn’t forget about the Cedar’s potentially higher computing resources but that hardly matters for HTPCs whereas its 80 ALUs cannot save the day in modern games.

So, compared to Nvidia’s 40nm entry-level solutions, AMD’s Redwood (RV830) and Cedar (RV810) based products look really good. The senior model Radeon HD 5670 is especially appealing as it is more economical than the GeForce GT 240. The Radeon HD 5570 and 5450 are roughly comparable to their opponents GeForce GT 220 and GeForce 210 in terms of power consumption. Choosing a power supply for any of these Radeon HD 5000 series models won’t be difficult because a 250W and higher unit will do just fine. Of course, the PSU must be high quality. You shouldn’t save by buying cheap products from dubious brands like Codegen, for example.

And here is what the graphics cards show in terms of temperature:

* - passive cooling

The Gigabyte GV-R567OC-1GI is best here thanks to its large 80mm fan. The GPU is no hotter than 55°C under load, which is very good. The rest of the cards are hotter, especially the Sapphire HD 5450 512MB DDR3 which has the smallest heatsink. We can recall that its predecessor ATI Radeon HD 4550 suffered from the same problem whereas the tall heatsink helps the reference Radeon HD 5450. The more advanced card from Sapphire is very hot under load, too. The results are generally just as we might expect, and we want to repeat it once again that a graphics card with passive cooler you may choose for your noiseless HTPC needs a properly ventilated system case. Otherwise, its GPU, memory or voltage regulators may overheat with unpleasant consequences.

We also measured the amount of noise produced by the cards with active coolers. The two Radeon HD 5450 versions have no fans and do not increase the noise produced by our testbed at a distance of 1 meter, which is 37 dBA.

The Gigabyte GV-R567OC-1GI is louder than the reference Radeon HD 5670 according to our noise-level meter, but the later is actually more irritating because of its small and high-speed fan. Gigabyte’s cooler, on the contrary, merges into the noise produced by the other system components. The reference Radeon HD 5570 is even more irritating but its cooling efficiency is higher than that of the Sapphire HD 5570 1GB DDR3 DP. The latter tries to keep the fan speed low, reluctantly increasing it under OCCT: GPU. As a result, the GPU temperature is as high as 80°C but the card is virtually silent, despite the active cooler. We wouldn’t recommend installing it into a poorly ventilated system case, though, due to the high GPU temperature. So, the nonstandard cooling solutions are more comfortable for the ear although sometimes at the expense of cooling performance as is the case with the Sapphire HD 5570 1GB DDR3 DP. We guess that most junior models of AMD’s Redwood and Cedar based cards will be equipped with nonstandard cooling solutions.

Now we are ready to move on to practical tests. By the way, overclocking the Redwood and Cedar based cards makes little sense. They still won’t be fast in games and the higher frequencies will be perfectly useless for multimedia applications. We did try to overclock the Radeon HD 5670 in an earlier review and you can refer to it to see the result. Right now we will check out the multimedia capabilities of the new entry-level cards in the Radeon HD line-up.

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